Written by: Andrew Boyd
Some people say rock is dead. I think the situation with the rock genre is similar to how Alexisonfire puts it: “Maybe music isn’t dead, maybe we all just forgot what it fucking sounded like”. Cabbages & Kings have definitely not forgotten what rock music sounds like. I would even argue that they are helping to redefine what modern rock sounds like. They are living rock and roll, in the small town of Norris Arm no less. Mike Kirby, Josh Noble, and Brandon Hopkins are pursuing their love of music in defiance of what some would suggest is the “right” way to make it in music. They are pioneering their own path and the results are nothing short of spectacular. Their sophomore release Vale instantly up’s the ante for everyone else making modern day rock in Newfoundland. They’ve made adjustments in all the right places and have simplified instrumentation to serve the music. Their first self-titled release was a statement to the music scene, dirty, in your face rock and roll which showed all who listened that the guys know how to bring it. This new album really shows the band's maturity as artists, but also displays vulnerability.
The album was written during a period of major change for the band. Since the release of Vale, the guys have been covered by nearly every respected media outlet on the island. A theme that has continued throughout these interviews is the Big House, the house the band now writes and records out of. Most of us know the story well enough. Mike's Grandmother put the house up for sale and that was the catalyst that kick-started the next chapter in the Cabbages & King's saga. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited the Big House in person and I can say that there is something mystical about the place.
Rock Eden: Was the song "Big House" about the new place in Norris Arm? Did the move have an influence on the album itself?
Cabbages & Kings: We definitely feel the house came through on the album in a huge way. we seriously put ourselves in a different position by uprooting our lives and making this move. We feel that it created an edge, or loss of safety net, that certainly gave the album its feel. Looking back we realize we had to make this move to make this album. It was the way it had to be.
RE: How has the new environment helped shape your writing and the band’s identity in general?
C&K: Well, writing is always fueled by uncertainty. It helps the creative process, a bit of light when everything goes dark. We feel the new environment changed the shape of our writing as a band in every way possible. As for our identity, who knows, we are just being ourselves and people can perceive us how they wish. We are just three guys who wanna make music. Identity is something everyone will see differently.
RE: Are there any underlying themes in Vale? The last album, for example, had some reference to Alice in Wonderland. Is there anything similar with the new album?
C&K: It’s no secret that the band name comes from the writing of Lewis Carroll so we feel there will probably always be references to Alice and that counter culture in our works. This album is no different. Cabbages will always be about shedding light on thinking outside the box. It’s about recognizing current standards in society and then offering a different way of thinking, sometimes against the grain.
RE: How did Cabbages & Kings form?
C&K: Cabbages & Kings formed as a result of a songwriting process Mike started back in 2013. He had been making demos in the studio for what would become the debut album. Mike and Brandon met one day by chance at a music store where they exchanged contact info. Perfect timing. They began jamming off and on for a few months, and to be honest, it wasn't going anywhere. The last few months of 2013 was when it all came together. Brandon and Mike had a listening session one evening for Brandon to hear the completed demo tunes. He was sold and signed on to complete the project. It was at that exact time that Josh was making a move back to St John’s from Labrador and had been in communication with Mike (being an old friend) to possibly get involved with a music project. Once again. perfect timing. When Josh returned to the city the band started jam sessions and it was quickly realized that this was the obvious band line up. It all sort of snowballed from there.
RE: Who are your biggest influences?
C&K: We could sit here and name bands that have influenced us personally all night, but truth is we are influenced by anything that is real. We strive to find projects where you can feel the passion…where you know that there is nothing fake in it. That’s what it’s all about for us.
RE: I read in a previous article that you guys are big outdoors enthusiast. What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing or playing music?
C&K: Well, we’re not full on lumberjacks or anything, but yeah, for the most part, we like to do some outdoorsy stuff. We find fishing to be insanely relaxing. Especially where no one talks to you for hours at a time! It does wonders for mental attitude! Basically, we love anything that gets us out of the studio for a bit. Go for a skate, go have a fire. Whatever, it’s all good!
RE: What is one thing your fans probably don’t know about you?
C&K: We are all fans of Sia’s music!
There was a lot of pressure for Cabbages & Kings to prove to themselves and others that making the move to the Big House was a necessary step in the evolution of the band. It turns out the guys work well under pressure and that determination to make a great album really shines through with raw emotion on Vale. A lot of popular music today is created with teams of writers and hired guns building a product that they think will appeal to the masses. There is something flawed in that approach and it becomes almost mechanical. Cabbages & Kings are three guys who are writing and playing music that they truly enjoy because it feels right. This is what makes music authentic. That realism is hard to come by these days and it takes a certain level of bravado to put yourself out there like Mike, Josh and Brandon of Cabbages & Kings.
You can catch Cabbages & Kings on the main stage at the 2016 Salmon Festival in Grand-Falls Windsor on July 16.